Saturday, December 15, 2012

When Words Fail

Sometimes there are no words to express our feelings.

Sometimes words feel like a container for our emotions, 

pressing us down, 

covering us like a lid.

This morning, after I finally had a minute alone, I went into my closet, wrapped my fingers around the shelving until my knuckles turned white, and screamed.  When I was done, I crawled onto the carpet of my bedroom floor, covered my face and sobbed.  It’s hard to feel the angst of sorrow and the pain of tragedy. It feels tight like a rubber band needing to be stretched further and twisting like a wash cloth being firmly wrung out. 

No act of contrition seemed appropriate for what happened yesterday in Connecticut.

As I lay on my floor, I thought about my role working in an elementary school.  Each morning hundreds of students are welcomed into our building where I know each one by name.  I thought about how we regularly practice lock-down drills, hiding in discrete areas, away from windows, away from danger.  We tell our students and ourselves, “This is only a drill.  It’s just practice.”  

Apparently it’s not.

I thought about my nieces and nephews who will grow up with a loving family, many of us public school educators who will smile and tell them, “School is a wonderful place to be,” trusting that when we send them on the big yellow school bus, they’ll come safely home in the afternoon, waving an art project in their hands, lips smiling, bubbling over with news of their day.

And even though my mind DOESN’T WANT TO GO there: 

I think about how much I appreciate my principal and how I aspire to be one someday.  The school in Connecticut lost theirs. If I taught in that school I would have to resign.  

I think about dead bodies lying on the ground and the horror that would shackle my own body if the students that bring me joy every day were somehow lying in front of me, painfully lifeless.  

My world would become empty if my nieces and nephew were cruelly snatched out of it and my brother and sister-in-law were left to grieve without relief.   

I am angry and sad and questioning.

A few weeks ago I was sent this video of John Piper reading a poem about Jesus visiting the Inn Keeper who housed his family the night He was born.  The Inn Keeper tells Jesus about the massacre of children that insured because of His arrival.  When I first watched it I found it disturbing; now I can’t think of anything more appropriate.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Make A Joyful Noise Unto the Lord!

It comes like an unwelcome visitor each winter.  As clouds fill the sky and darkness covers the evening, my countenance changes from happy to blue.  I find myself wanting to burst into tears for no other reason than to express the feeling of sadness growing in my chest.  I often feel withdrawn from people, as if I’ve lost my appetite for human interaction.  So, I pop Vitamin D like candy, pound the pavement at the Outlet Mall, and spend time with those I love, but sometimes these activities are of little help.

Spring can’t come fast enough.

I noticed last week that my seasonal visitor has yet to arrive.  Sure, its been warm, but I think my cheer has been a result of singing.  This fall I was invited to be part of a Christmas choir at Servant of Christ Lutheran Church.  I accepted the invitation and once a week, I stepped out of the darkness of the night and into the warmth of the church.  Sitting next to the altos, cracking jokes with the bases, we worked together to transform notes on a page into beautiful music.  Today, in the midst of heavy snowfall, we had our concert.  

Now that the excitement is over, I’ve been thinking about how much I love singing.   What an amazing ability God has given us not only to speak, but to change our voice into song.

I delight in it.

Part of my delight comes from a deep desire to respond physically to the goodness of God.  Living in a body where I come face to face with limitations every day, it’s rare for me to find a physical activity that I can fully engage in—much less enjoy.  When I am singing, I am totally uninhibited and my whole body can give itself fully to praising the Lord.  Even when I grow weary from standing and have to sit down, air still fills my lungs and sound spills forth from my lips.  With everything I have I can physically express my joy in the Lord.   

Feeling a little blue?  Here’s some help from a very young Mariah Carey singing Joy to the World!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

In Everything Give Thanks

I feel like I’ve aged quite a bit this past  year—having to sit more frequently at work while teaching, sometimes squirming to manage low back pain.  This October I visited Gillette Lifetime Clinic in Lake Phalen where they provide compassionate and comprehensive care for adults with CP.  After a 3 ½  hour appointment where six medical professionals paraded in and out of my room, we decided that I should wear a brace on my left leg.  It’s sleek, made of carbon fiber like the Olympic athlete double amputee that ran this summer.  I’ve noticed a difference, I feel more supported when I walk and sometimes it seems I have more energy at the end of the day…It’s just that wearing a brace is not what I envisioned doing at 28.

This morning I grumbled a little bit as I strapped on my new carbon-fiber leg brace at the breakfast table. I knew today was going to busy and I needed all the support I could get. My brace and custom made shoe inserts have been very helpful, but it often means I have to wear tennis shoes with my dress pants to work.

"Be thankful!" I commanded myself as I moved around the kitchen. "Be thankful there's a clinic right in MN that treats CP. Be thankful you were able to get an appointment right away. Be thankful for health insurance. Be thankful you live in a country where you can even get a brace."

"Ok." I negotiated with myself. "I'll be thankful." But secretly I wanted to wear stylish shoes today. I pined for my new black boots that were sitting upstairs in my closet. I thought of colleagues who are always dressed so nice, coordinating their outfits from head to toe. I had coordinated my outfit today too--from head to...ankle.

After lunch a class came into the media center for their lesson. One of the students had injured his leg and had most of it temporarily immobilized. He was limping. "Now he's like you!" The class chirped.

"You're right!" I nodded. I sat down in a chair, pulled my pant leg up to my knee, and showed the class my brace. We talked about what it was and why I wear it. I let them ask questions. I didn't have to try to be thankful anymore, because in that moment I was thankful that today wearing my brace was helping me to connect more effectively with the students in front of me.

Today I was certain that the six and seven year old children that were sitting in the reading well had become my teachers, illustrating what Paul had learned in 2 Corinthians. God's grace really is sufficient for me and His power really is being made perfect in my weakness.

I am so thankful!

Stumbo Family Story